Thursday, 10 December 2009

A Visit to the Tamar Island Wetlands Reserve

I recently visited the Tamar Island Wetlands Reserve just north of Launceston. The Tamar Estuary at 70km in length is said to be the largest in Australia and it drains Tasmania's largest catchment area which covers 18% of the state. The reserve itself protects around 60 hectares of mud flats, reeds beds, coastal paperbark forest and small islands.

Some of our small party were a little less enthusiastic about entering because as soon as we got out of the car they spied a snake slithering off the path and into the reeds. Unfortunately I missed seeing it. It was likely to be a Lowland copperhead, Austrelaps superbusas, as that is the only snake that has been recorded in the reserve.

Between the entrance and the interpretation centre you pass through an area of freshwater lagoon. Apparently this is a good place for spotting the rare Green and Gold Frog, Litoria raniformis. On sunnier days they sit basking on the bank but we "dipped out" as it seems the frogs had "dipped in". The photo below is of a captive specimen.

Green and Gold Frog - Litoria raniformis

The interpretation centre has a lot of information on the wetlands ecology and also has a spotting scope set up for watching the birds.

Interpretation Centre

About half a kilometre down the boardwalk there is a side track that takes you through some coastal paperbark forest and then to a small bird hide.

Along the main boardwalk you pass though large areas of reed beds (Phragmites australis) where I spotted a Little Grassbird, Megalurus gramineus.

Reed Beds

There are three species of skink in the reserve. Along the boardwalks we spotted two metallic skinks, Niveoscincus metallicus, and also the rare Glossy Grass Skink, Pseudemoia rawlinsoni. This species is found in other parts of south-eastern Australia too but it is rare here in Tasmania only being known from a few sites mostly in the Launceston area.

Glossy Grass Skink - Pseudemoia rawlinsoni

You also cross over a series of bridges spanning drainage channels. At low tide these areas reveal extensive mud flats.


Drainage Channel

Some of the 53 Black Swans, Cygnus atratus, we saw at the reserve

Great Egret - Ardea modesta

Black-fronted Dotterel - Elseyornis melanops

Juvenile Welcome Swallow - Hirundo neoxena at the side of the boardwalk
(Only about 60cm from lens)

At the end of the walk you cross over to Tamar Island (1.5kms from the entrance). The island has a long history of European occupation and is dominated by exotic trees and shrubs. The birds I saw here were, not surprisingly, mostly introduced species such as Greenfinch and Goldfinch but there were also some natives like Silvereyes, Zosterops lateralis and Superb Fairtywrens, Malurus cyaneus.

This was a fairly rushed trip and much of the time was spent covering the area as opposed to sitting and watching for birds. We only saw 22 of of the 63 birds that have been recorded there. My intention was mostly to spy out the land to see if it was worth visiting. The answer was an emphatic yes.

List of birds seen:

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)
Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides)
Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa)
Australasian Shoveler (Anas rhynchotis)
Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea)
Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta)
White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)
Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans)
Eastern Australian Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus)
Pied Oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris)
Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles)
Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops)
Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae)
Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus)
Superb Fairywren (Malurus cyaneus)
Forest Raven (Corvus tasmanicus tasmanicus)
Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena)
Little Grassbird (Megalurus gramineus)
Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
European Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)


  1. A little more grassbird please.

  2. Thanks Tony - wish I'd got a photo but they appear flying over the reeds and then quickly dive back in.

  3. Hi Alan
    Some great shots there.
    You must have a good camera and alot of patience.

  4. lol, you saw something I hadn´t in my White image, the swan. :)
    You have a very nice blog. I like frogs and lizards but rarely see them.

    I also have a birdblog. I give you the link as I see you listed a lot of birds from your trip. I have not seen black swans since I visited NZ about 15 yrs ago.

  5. Thanks "It's a Mystery" - for popping in. I'm still practising having patience :-)

    Thanks NatureFootstep - It was well hidden :-)
    .....and thanks for the link.

  6. A very interesting place judging by the photos you have taken. Its good to see that there are boardwalks and interpretive signs etc etc. and that it appears well organized and interesting.

  7. Thanks Mick - I was impressed. I've been meaning to go there for the last 3 years and I'm glad I finally did.

  8. It was a bonus finding a new story from you today Mos. I wish the grassbird was as willing to be photographed as the swallow was!